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Tips & guides 3,454 views Sep 19, 2016
How to obtain, train and retain good trustees.

How to obtain, train and retain good trustees.

Non-profit organisations, as you will know, really struggle to recruit good trustees: trustees who are fully engaged, know how they can make a difference and where they fit into the organisation.

  • Recruiting new trustees is about getting the right people.

  • Training trustees is about growing the right people.

  • Retaining trustees is about engaging the right people.


A recent figure from the UK governing bodies showed that 47 per cent of organisations have a vacancy for a trustee at any given time. This matches my experience of working with non-profit organisations in general, and trustees in particular.

So, how do you recruit a trustee who is the right fit for your organisation?

Many organisations naturally look to their supporters, service users, family, friends and colleagues as a first step. However, this can be difficult, especially if the potential trustee is known to you, as they will be expected to question and challenge the status quo! Is that going to be uncomfortable? Organisations which have trustees with long-term involvement who are not prepared to ask those challenging questions will run into problems. You know the famous saying – never work with family and friends!

You will, of course, have to consider your networks, but before that, map out and be clear about what skills are missing from your existing trustees, and what is needed to drive your organisation forward, e.g. operations, finance, HR, third sector, communications or legal. Compare your organisation’s priorities with an assessment of your existing  trustees’ skills.

Why not ask your existing board members what motivated them to join? Try to create a trustee advert that reflects this feedback. Many people will not understand what a trustee is – help them by explaining in your advert the key skills and responsibilities needed to fulfil the role.


An induction programme is a clear and simple way to provide your newest trustee with all the information they need to be confident and productive in their role. So make sure you have a role description document which sets out the trustee’s purpose and main duties.

Your induction programme can last for a few weeks or months; to find out more about what should be included, click here:


What would make you stay interested and engaged in an organisation? Here are some points to bear in mind:

  • Good communication – making sure trustees communicate and support one another.

  • Provide papers for board meetings well in advance and take extra time to prepare a new trustee so that they are aware of the background of certain agenda items.

  • Encourage and motivate trustees by thanking them for their support and contribution – they are often the forgotten volunteers!

  • Remember that without trustees you will struggle to drive your organisation forward, and governance will get lost in the ‘to-do’ list.

After a few months it is worth reviewing the process – ask your trustee how they are settling in to the role and if there’s any more you can do to support them, and remember to ask their opinions on how things could work better.

8 Top Tips

  1. Make sure you have an honest role description.

  2. Identify gaps in your current board.

  3. Create an advert that promotes those areas of expertise.

  4. Sell the role in an honest way – could you do an interview with existing trustees?

  5. Create an induction pack that helps trustees to understand their key duties.

  6. Make sure they meet the staff, volunteers and beneficiaries to engage with the work of the organisation.

  7. Assign a ‘board member buddy’ that they can ask questions to outside of board meetings.

  8. Review how your trustees are settling into their role: ask how the process has been for them, and what could be done better or differently in the future.


Caroline is a Charity Leader, Trustee and Consultant. Her passion lies in helping not-for-profit organisations grow. She is the owner of Charity Peeks, an organisation designed to inspire and educate charity and social enterprise leaders. With 25 years of business experience, Caroline helps Trustees and Managers to have clarity on what they need to do in their organisation to deliver results. Her energy for supporting organisations to build trust and be open and transparent shines through in her training seminars, speaking roles and consultancy work. Why not join the Charity Peeks facebook group? It's free and full of hints and tips for manager and trustees, just click here to join


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